You can’t spell “swish” without Ish.
Basketball will always remain in Ish Wainright’s blood, but he’s a fooball player now. After playing four years for Scott Drew’s Baylor basketball team and helping the Bears reach a pair of Sweet 16s, Wainright decided to use his final year of athletic eligibility with Matt Rhule’s football team.
It’s admittedly been a steep learning curve, as Wainright hadn’t played football since he was in the ninth grade in 2009. But the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder has shown flashes of the promise he brings at tight end. He made a leaping snag for a touchdown in Baylor’s spring game after just a week of practice. Two weeks ago against Kansas, he made his first catch as a Bear count, jumping into the air to make a nice 9-yard touchdown grab on a back-shoulder pass from Charlie Brewer.
He’s hoping to follow another former Baylor basketball player, Dallas Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers, into the NFL, and he talked about that and other topics with the Trib this week.
When you came out here for football in the spring, did you ever have what we might call a “blond moment,” where you were like, ‘What are they talking about?’
Oh, that’s every day. I’m not even going to lie to you. They say stuff to me and I have to look at Coach (Joey) McGuire and say, ‘Coach, I don’t know what y’all talking about.’ Even in film sometimes. The linemen call something and we have to block a certain way, and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s just like learning Chinese. I told them, ‘It’s a little Chinese out there.’ I’m learning, though. Every day I’m learning something new.
When you scored the touchdown (against Kansas), did you consider going and dunking the ball over the goalpost?
Oh, yeah, I thought about that. I still think about doing that. But, I mean, one of the coaches said he might run me after practice. But I’m still thinking about it. I think it may work in the last game. If I’m able to score in the last game, I may do it.
Grayland Arnold said that he could take you on the basketball court …
(Lots of laughing) I don’t know about that. I don’t know. I’d try to dunk on him, and I’m not even known as a dunker anymore. But I would try to dunk on him.
You’d just have to back him down, right? You’ve got a mouse in the house?
Oh yeah, two dribbles. I don’t care if he takes a charge on me, I’m going to get to the rim.
Who else on the football team can play a little hoops?
Oooo, Obim (Okeke). B-Nance (Brian Nance), for sure. And (long snapper) Clint Kelly. Clint Kelly can hoop. We played at the Slick one time, and yeah. He can ball.
Do you still get out and play much?
Every blue moon. When I made the switch, I’m trying my best to zone that out and learn as much as possible. Because I only have one year to learn as much as possible for the next level. But, I mean, I sneak up on (the basketball team). If we get out early or anything, or if we don’t have practice, I sneak up and go to their practice. I’m still mentoring some of the guys over there, helping them. Now I’m going to the games, Nuni (Omot) had that crazy dunk, Top Ten, down the court. But I stay at an apartment that has an outdoor hoop. I go out there sometimes, take my dog out, and shoot a couple of free throws.
How much are you in contact with Rico (Gathers), does he communicate with you?
Every once in a while. He’s busy. He’s a family man, married with two little ones. But he’s busy. I talk to him a little bit. The next level is a grind, and he’s grinding, trying to stay healthy, too.
Does he give you inspiration, in making it to the NFL?
Yes, yes. Not just him. You’ve got Antonio Gates. Tony Gonzalez. The Hall of Famers that played basketball and then decided, ‘Hey, let’s give it a try and see what happens.’ They opened up the door for Rico, and in turn Rico opened up the door for me. So, thank you.